A young man who says Kevin Spacey groped him in a Nantucket bar in 2016 has dropped his lawsuit against the Oscar-winning actor, his lawyer said Friday.
Spacey still faces a criminal charge. He pleaded not guilty to indecent assault and battery in January.
His accuser’s lawyer, Mitchell Garabedian, announced in an email that the suit filed June 26 in Nantucket Superior Court has been voluntarily dismissed. No reason was provided either by Garabedian or in the court filing. Garabedian said he would have no further comment. A telephone message was left at his office.
According to the court filing, the suit was dismissed “with prejudice,” which means it cannot be refiled.
An email was left Friday requesting comment from Alan Jackson, Spacey’s attorney. Jackson has previously said the man is lying in the hopes of winning money in a civil case against Spacey.
The legal development could have significance for the criminal case against Spacey, legal experts say.
While there are a range of reasons why a civil suit is dropped so quickly after being filed, it could be an indicator a private settlement was reached and that the accuser may ultimately stop cooperating with prosecutors, said William Korman, a former prosecutor in the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office who is now a criminal defense lawyer specializing in sexual assault cases.
“Any settlement could not be conditioned on a refusal to cooperate with the prosecution,” said Korman. “Nevertheless, money is a great motivator for an individual not to follow through.”
It’s also possible prosecutors, upset with the timing of the civil suit, specifically asked the accuser to drop it, said David Yannetti, a former prosecutor who is now a criminal defense lawyer in Boston. The civil suit was filed months into the ongoing criminal case, but such suits are typically filed after a criminal case is decided, he said.
“Maybe the prosecution said it’s either about money or it’s about a crime, but it can’t be about both and you have to make a decision on where you want to go with this,” Yannetti said.
The civil suit was likely filed before completion of the criminal case because the three-year statute of limitations is approaching, added Yannetti.
“We’re operating with very little info, but it’s clear something unusual is going on here,” he said. “Either the prosecution got involved or there was some sort of civil settlement.”
Cape and Islands District Attorney Michael O’Keefe’s office declined to comment on whether prosecutors had any role in the withdrawal of the civil suit or whether a settlement has been reached.
“The criminal case is independent from the civil case and will go forward,” Assistant District Attorney Tara Miltimore said in an email.
Garabedian’s client, the son of Boston TV anchor Heather Unruh, alleged Spacey got him drunk and sexually assaulted him at the Club Car restaurant where the then-18-year-old man worked as a busboy.
The criminal case has centered on the cellphone used by the accuser the night of the alleged groping, which the defense says it needs in order to recover text messages it says will support Spacey’s innocence.
Nantucket District Court Judge Thomas Barrett has ordered the man to hand the phone over to the defense, but his attorney said they cannot find it. The judge has given them until Monday to produce the phone.